resources for voter mobilization
Vote Early Day is a nonpartisan Civic Holiday dedicated to raising awareness of early voting opportunities and getting out the early vote. Millions of Americans have the option to vote before Election Day, and early voting gives voters the opportunity to resolve any issues they face at the polls and ensure their ballots will be counted.
For information on early voting in your state and guidance for celebrating Vote Early Day, visit www.voteearlyday.org.
Help Voters Know WHEN, WHERE, And HOW To Vote
1. Prepare Voters in Advance of Election Day
Educate voters about the basics of voting: when, where, and how to vote. Make sure these details are included in your materials, mailings, campaign emails or other outreach:
The date of the election
Opportunities for early voting
Hours of polling locations
You can obtain sample ballots from your Board of Elections or county clerk’s office and distribute to residents. This is especially helpful if you are working with many first-time voters. Arranging for local election officials to demonstrate how voting machines work can be helpful in easing fears about voting for the first time. You may also want to coordinate with a group like the Election Protection Coalition, a national, nonpartisan coalition that provides a range of tools and activities with comprehensive information on all stages of voting. This organization also hosts the election protection hotline. More information can be found online at: www.866ourvote.org.
2. When to Vote: Date of the Election
The date of the election and the hours that polls are open are basic elements to voting successfully. These very basic details are easy to overlook, but having this information easily available can help voters make a concrete plan.
3. Where to Vote: Finding Polling Places
Vote411 has a simple tool where voters can look up their polling place so that they know where to go on Election Day. Voters only need to enter their address to get the location, address, and hours of their polling place.
In addition to providing the nearest polling place, Vote411’s tool links to personalized information on the candidates and issues and provides a sample ballot. Voters can also verify the status of their registration.
Knowing the location of a polling place is only the first step, as many people struggle to find transportation to their polling place due to cost, time, and distance. Organizations like Rideshare2Vote AWARE can facilitate rides to the polls for those facing transportation barriers.
4. How to Vote: What to Bring
Many states require that voters provide some form of identification in order to vote. Make sure voters know what is and is not acceptable identification and what is required to vote in your community. Vote.org maintains a list of voter ID requirements for both in-person and absentee voting. But voter ID laws change frequently and your local election official will be able to confirm the requirements.
Many low-income voters have correct identification—but may not know it is required. Your organization can create a “What to Bring With You” sheet to help voters navigate the requirements.
Get Out the Vote EARLY
1. Explore Early Voting Options in Your State
Early voting, including voting by mail, is a great solution for turnout concerns among low-income voters.
Early voting usually provides for much shorter lines both at the early voting site AND at the polls on Election Day, because so many people will have already cast their ballots. Early voting can mitigate the effects of voter caging—the practice of challenging voters’ registration status because mail was found undeliverable to their current address—that are common on Election Day. For example, in states with rigid voter identification laws, early voting can provide voters who do not have the correct documents the opportunity to retrieve them and return at another time to cast their vote.
Vote Early Day has tools to help understand early voting options in your state. They also host an annual “Vote Early Day” to encourage early voting.
2. Make Early Voting and Vote-By-Mail Part of Your Strategy
Early voting and voting by mail are important options for people who might face obstacles to voting on Election Day, including people with inflexible schedules, childcare responsibilities, and those with limited transportation options.
You can help low-income renters vote early by providing information about early voting—including where, when, and what they need to bring to vote early.
Remember, early voting is an important strategy for helping low-income renters vote. But it is not enough. Voter mobilization on Election Day is still important.
Make Sure Voters Know Their Rights
1. Support Voters To Feel Confident About Voting
Voter intimidation campaigns are often intended to deter low-income people and communities of color from voting. Voters should feel confident that they can exercise their right to vote and know how to report unlawful voter intimidation.
Educate voters about their rights and about resisting voter intimidation efforts. The ACLU information about voter rights and common scenarios.
2. You Don’t Need A Home To Vote
All states allow individuals who are unhoused to vote, including those who are temporarily residing in a shelter. In most cases, a residential address is needed to determine where a voter should be voting.
In many states that require an address to register to vote, voters who are unhoused should list any place where they reside, whether it is a shelter, street corner, or park. In some states with Election Day registration, voters experiencing homelessness can arrive at the polls with another voter in a given ward or precinct who vouches for the voter who is unhoused. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) provides detailed guidance on voting for people experiencing homelessness.
3. Voting for Justice-Involved Individuals
In most states, people who have been incarcerated have their voting rights restored when their sentence is complete or when they are released. For a state-by-state breakdown of these voting rights, see the map on felony disenfranchisement that the ACLU maintains. It is important to inform people with a prior conviction that their voting rights have been restored after their sentence is completed. Check out ProCon’s state felon voting laws factsheet for information on your respective jurisdictions because often states that prohibit returning citizens from voting have formal voter restoration processes.
4. Accessing Voting Accommodations for Voters With Disabilities
Under federal law, all polling places for federal elections must be fully accessible to older adults and voters with disabilities. Simply allowing curbside voting is not enough to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements. In federal elections, every polling place must have at least one voting system that allows voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently. Usually, this is a machine that can read the ballot to you (for people with vision disabilities or dyslexia), and lets you vote by pushing buttons (for people with mobility disabilities). Election officials (including poll workers) must make reasonable accommodations as needed to help you vote.
5. Supporting Voters With Limited English Proficiency
Barriers to understanding voting materials—such as voter registration forms, ballots and complicated referenda issues that appear on ballots—can discourage many citizens from exercising their right to vote. Under federal law, voters who have difficulty reading or writing English may receive in-person assistance at the polls from the person of their choice. Asian Americans Advancing Justice has a wide range of in-language background materials about language access in voting.
Mobilizing Your Organization for Election Day
1. Contact Voters
If possible, contact each potential voter three times between the day they register and Election Day: a few weeks before the election, a few days before the election, and at least once on Election Day.
Share with them all the essentials of voting: where, when and how. Ideally, contacts should be made in person through a knock at the door, but phone calls, emails, and postcards can also work. Not everyone will be home when your canvassers visit, so you may want to create a pre-printed note that can be left on people’s doors on Election Day.
2. Ask Voters to Make a Plan
When contacting voters in the days up to Election Day, ask them how and when they plan to vote, and how they plan on getting there. Asking voters to express this plan can allow organizers to verify the polling location and hours with the voter and also learn if there are transportation issues that need to be addressed.
One strategy is to ask voters to fill out a voter pledge card where they commit to voting and identify a date and polling location. When a voter envisions their steps to vote, they are more likely to act on that plan. Asking voters to express this plan can also allow organizers to verify the polling location and hours with the voter and learn if there are transportation issues that need to be addressed. A sample fillable voter pledge card can be found at https://www.ourhomes-ourvotes.org/resource-library.
3. Eliminate Transportation Barriers
Lack of reliable transportation can be a major barrier to voting. Fortunately, there are several options for organizers to consider. Many cities offer discounted public transit on Election Day; check to see if yours does. You can also volunteer to provide rides on Election Day, or partner with groups like Rideshare2Vote AWARE that already do so. Many houses of worship or community religious groups will often provide rides to the polls. In 2020, Uber and Lyft partnered with national and local organizations to provide free or discounted rides on Election Day and may do so again in future elections. Make sure to exhaust all resources when determining transportation options as part of your voter efforts.
4. Provide Childcare on Election Day
Consider recruiting volunteers to provide childcare at subsidized properties for residents who need flexibility to get to polls and cast their ballot.
5. Become a Polling Location
Connect with your local Board of Elections or county clerk to begin the process of becoming a polling location. This may take some lead time—so investigate this process as soon as possible. Low-income renters will have better turnout if they can vote in the community rooms of their buildings or if they need only go to a familiar neighborhood center or service agency.
6. Organize Group Voting
Many voters are more likely to make it to the polls if they are joined by their neighbors. Resident councils and other low-income peer organizing efforts should consider selecting times when groups of residents can walk or ride to the polls altogether, making it a community activity and ensuring accountability. People are more likely to vote when there are other people expecting them to do so.
Mobilizing on Election Day: GOTV
1. Reminder Calls to Voters
On Election Day, you may want to contact voters until they have affirmed that they have voted. For example, if someone tells you at noon that they have not yet had a chance to vote, call back at 4:00pm to see whether they have been able to get to their local polling location.
2. Remind Voters What to Bring With Them To Vote
Make sure people know what is and is not acceptable identification and what is required in your community. Many low-income people have the correct identification, but they don’t vote because they have been misinformed. A “What to Bring with You” sheet can be very helpful; this is information that should be shared on your GOTV materials leading up to Election Day.
3. Help Voters Exercise Their Right to Vote
For help at the polls, encourage voters to call the nonpartisan Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-Our Vote.
4. Celebrate the Elections!
Election parties are a great way to celebrate civic engagement and to build community. But remember that any celebration should be nonpartisan.
Also, remember that you cannot provide incentives to voters. Election celebrations should be open to anyone interested in attending—both voters and non-voters.